Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Air Algerie investigation continues

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Dozens of youths trampled to death on Conakry beach

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola death toll tops 700

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

UNRWA official breaks down over Gaza deaths

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults - Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults - Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Renault's women drivers ad deemed sexist

Read more

FOCUS

Constitution prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

War and Markets, with Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist at Saxo Bank

Read more

  • Kerry, Ban announce 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

    Read more

  • 24 killed¸ 271 injured in South Taiwan gas blast

    Read more

  • Argentinian markets plummet following default

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • French Jews speak of growing fear in Paris amid Gaza conflict

    Read more

  • Video: Inside Hamas ‘terror’ tunnels in Gaza

    Read more

  • Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over spread of Ebola

    Read more

  • Investigators reach MH17 site amid 24-hour ceasefire

    Read more

  • France remembers murdered socialist hero Jean Jaurès

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Scores feared dead in India landslide

    Read more

  • Russia ordered to pay further €1.9 billion to Yukos shareholders

    Read more

  • Iraq's Christians: Nowhere to Run?

    Read more

  • Russia defiant as US, EU unveil 'phase three' sanctions

    Read more

  • US House votes to sue Obama for over-reaching his powers

    Read more

Americas

Dissident warned his life was in danger, say Cuban activists

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-07-24

Longtime Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died in a car accident on Sunday, had warned that the authorities in Havana wanted to kill him, fellow activists said Monday. Paya, 60, was the second key dissident in Cuba to die in a year.

AFP - Hundreds of mourners on Monday thronged the wake of dissident Oswaldo Paya, killed in a weekend car crash that relatives and friends charge was not an accident as Cuban authorities say.

Paya, 60, was the second key dissident to die in a year. Cuban officials said he died in a car accident near the city of Bayamo, but close supporters -- foes of the Americas' only Communist regime -- say that Paya long feared for his life, and now they feared for theirs.

"He had said they were going to kill him. And this was the third accident he had this year," charged Martha Beatriz Roque, a well known dissident economist.

"Something has got to be done urgently so that this does not go any further," said Roque, who was among 75 dissidents rounded up tried and jailed in a 2003 crackdown before she was freed after Catholic church mediation.

"We are all in danger," Roque insisted.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama Monday lauded Paya's legacy.

"The president's thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Oswaldo Paya, a tireless champion for greater civic and human rights in Cuba," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

"The United States will continue to support the Cuban people as they seek their fundamental human rights."

But "this is a huge loss for us. We still have to follow in his footsteps," said Bertha Soler, leader of the Ladies in White group of relatives of political prisoners.

Paya, an engineer and fervent Roman Catholic, founded the Christian Liberation Movement, a group pressing for political change in Cuba.

He won international attention in 2002 when, on the eve of a visit by former US president Jimmy Carter, he presented Cuba's legislature with more than 11,000 signatures in support for an initiative calling for change in Cuba.

Cuba was then still run by Fidel Castro, and Paya's move was a bold, landmark first confrontation between a citizen seeking wholesale change -- economic and democratic -- from within the existing political system.

Paya won the European parliament's Sakharov prize for human rights later that same year.

Yet his defiance of the Communist system did not bear fruit at home.

When Carter mentioned Paya's project in a speech on Cuban state television, most Cubans, in a country with only official media, had never heard of it.

The Cuban legislature ultimately rejected the initiative.

Cuban authorities say Paya died when his rental car went off the road and hit a tree on Sunday, roughly 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Bayamo. Another Cuban, Harold Cepero Escalante, who was an activist with Paya's group, was killed.

Two other men with them were injured -- Spaniard Angel Carromero Barrios and Swede Jens Aron Modig, both 27. They were released from hospital Monday, diplomatic sources said, but did not immediately speak to media.

In Havana, Paya's relatives and supporters called for an investigation.

"The circumstances of the accident are not at all clear," the Christian Liberation Movement told AFP in an e-mail signed by spokesman Regis Iglesias.

The group asked the "Cuban junta" to carry out a transparent probe.

Paya's daughter Rosa Maria said the family did not believe the death was an accident, according to Miami-based Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Herald.

"According to information we've obtained from people traveling with him, there was a vehicle trying to force him off the road... We don't think it was an accident," she said.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Paya's death "is profoundly heartbreaking and infuriating," and described him as "a man of extraordinary courage, conviction, and peace."

He said that Paya's death "raise questions about the pattern of conduct by a despotic regime" that seeks to crush internal dissent.

In Miami, many in the large Cuban-American community also questioned Paya's death.

US Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban American mentioned as a potential Romney running mate, said it is "critically important the international community join those inside Cuba in pressuring the regime to be forthcoming with the truth."

And Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Cuban-American head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, decried Paya's death as "an overwhelming loss to the Cuban people and their struggle for democracy."

While the circumstances of the death were unclear, she charged that Paya and his fellow pro-democracy dissidents "had been harassed by Cuban state security authorities for decades."
 

Date created : 2012-07-24

  • OBITUARY

    Longtime Cuban dissident Paya killed in car crash

    Read more

  • CUBA - INTERNET

    Havana slams 'dissident' blogger gathering

    Read more

  • CUBA

    Dozens detained in march calling for release of political prisoners

    Read more

COMMENT(S)